Review: "Goon"

Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) is the real-life personification of the term, “Black Sheep.” Coming from a family of well-respected doctors, Doug is a less-than-cerebral tough guy who works as a bouncer specifically called upon to rough up unruly customers. His luck begins to change, however, when his friend Ryan (Jay Baruchel) takes him to a minor league hockey game during which he lays a beating on an opposing player. This catches the eye of the team’s coach and soon Doug has suited up and become a local celebrity. Even more remarkable, Doug is soon called up to a real minor league team and tasked with protecting Xavier Laflamme (Marc-Andre Grondin), a young hotshot who has lost his way since a violent on-ice hit from longtime enforcer Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber). While Doug initially struggles with his role as a goon who isn’t valued as a hockey player, he and his teammates come together with a playoff berth on the line, setting up a dramatic confrontation between the old veteran (Rhea) and the young upstart (Doug).

There isn’t just a whole lot that can be said about Goon other than this: it is fun. Not an excessive, “I can’t wait to see that again” amount of fun but a reasonable, “This just popped up on HBO and I have 90 minutes to kill” amount of fun. The movie doesn’t have much of an agenda and there isn’t much of a plot to speak of, but it sets out to cover the life of a minor league hockey enforcer and it does that quite well. I’ve never been much of a hockey guy so I have no idea where this movie ends up on the “realistic” scale but it is at least as believable as The Mighty Ducks which is, I think we can all agree, the gold standard for hockey movies. (I’m half kidding there.) Goon is predictable and overtly paint-by-numbers but it is not without charm and it handles its subject matter with a light-hearted affection.

What is not predictable about this movie is the strength of the performances provided by the leads. Scott is, in my opinion, one of the more underrated comedic actors of his generation. He’ll never be taken all that seriously because his most widely-known character (Stifler from American Pie) is an over-the-top, offensive buffoon but I’ve always been impressed with his timing and his ability to make a movie or scene funny when it really shouldn’t be. (Case in point: Cop Out.) Here he turns Doug into a likeable and appealing hero, a very important aspect in an underdog sports movie. Baruchel’s hockey fanatic with a Wayne’s World-like cable access TV show is ridiculous and absurd but he is nonetheless an entertaining and dare I say essential part of the film’s equation. And Schreiber, truly one of the great character actors of our time, contributes a solid and believably menacing performance that provides the genial Doug with a much meaner counterpart. I’m not arguing that Scott, Baruchel, or Schreiber should be given consideration during award season but the truth of the matter is low-rent comedies like this one are often rife with mailed-in, half-hearted performances. Instead, Goon offers stars that seem invested in the material and the film benefits substantially from their interest.